If you're following the #XMen comics, you'll know that the current status quo is a very dark one. The mutant race is once again on the verge of extinction, and the #Inhumans are (indirectly) responsible! In 2013's "Infinity" event, the Inhuman monarch Black Bolt released the Terrigen Mists into the Earth's atmosphere. A year ago, in the aftermath of "Secret Wars", #Marvel revealed that the Terrigen Mists are in fact poisonous to mutants! Even as Terrigen creates an ever-expanding Inhuman race, it's actually killing off the mutant race. Now, finally, this extinction plot is leading the X-Men and the Inhumans into head-on battle!
What You Need To Know
Because this arc launched in the aftermath of "Secret Wars", it involved an 8-month time-jump - and a lot of events have happened in those eight months. That gap was finally filled with the Death of X miniseries, which showed the X-Men's first reaction when they realized that Terrigen was dangerous. Horrified, Cyclops led a band of X-Men in a first strike, and succeeded in neutralizing literally half of the world's Terrigen - before he was killed by Black Bolt in a retaliatory attack.
Or at least, that's what everybody thinks has happened; in reality, Cyclops was among the first to die of Terrigen poisoning. Emma Frost, the powerful telepath with whom he's been in an on-again-off-again relationship for the last decade or so, was grief-stricken and angry; she was actually the one to mastermind that attack. She also arranged for a 'last speech' to try to turn Cyclops into a symbol, feeling he deserved better than to end like this.
In the eight months since Cyclops's attack on the Inhumans, he's been demonized - and the X-Men were forced to flee the Earth, surviving in the Hellish realm of Limbo. A handful of young X-Men stuck it out, while Magneto led a black ops team against threats to the remaining mutants. Meanwhile, anti-mutant sentiment blazed brighter than ever before. The problem was that an encounter with Terrigen caused some mutants' powers to flare out of control, making them a terrible threat. Anti-mutant prejudice once again reared its ugly head.
A Crucial Setup Issue
Inhumans Versus X-Men #0 sets up this climactic event, one that will bring an end to the last year's plot. It's penned by Charles Soule, a writer who has penned some X-Men stories - most notably the Death of Wolverine miniseries - but has otherwise been associated with the Inhumans franchise. Essentially, Soule's purpose here is to prepare the ground for the first issue of Inhumans Versus X-Men, and he does this with real skill.
There are really two focal characters: The Beast and Emma Frost. As readers of Soule's Uncanny Inhumans will know, the Terrigen crisis has seen Beast reside at the Inhuman city of Attilan, where he has been studying Terrigen and its impact on mutants. The first scenes are a little frustrating; Soule portrays Beast as overjoyed at the prospect of finding a scientific solution to the problem, but his enthusiasm seems a tad overdone given he's supposed to have just seen Cyclops, one of his oldest friends, killed before his eyes. That said, this is a completely understandable decision on Soule's part - the overall narrative of Inhumans Versus X-Men #0 is essentially Beast's descent from hope to despair. You need a strong portrayal of hope in order to make the despair all the more tangible.
Along the way, Soule pulls off a number of smart continuity-fixes. Different comics had portrayed the Terrigen poisoning differently, but Soule retcons this into the narrative; he reveals that Terrigen affects every mutant differently. In fact, this is why Beast is struggling to find a cure - each mutant is affected differently, and so needs a completely different cure. It's a smart detail, and a fix for what - as a reader - had been one of the most frustrating aspects of the arc.
The second plot is focused on Emma Frost, and is a smart way of weaving her into the status quo that we've seen since "Secret Wars". Soule presents Emma as a master-manipulator, a chess player who's been moving the pieces into position for this battle. She knows that the Inhumans are ascendant, and that the mutants are in real danger of being overwhelmed; Black Bolt's powers alone would be enough to wipe out most of the world's mutants in a battle. But she's had eight months to prepare, and prepare she has. It's fascinating.
Perhaps one of the most disturbing aspects of all this, though, is that Soule presents a hint that Emma's formidable mind has actually broken. She seems not to remember faking Cyclops's death, but instead believes Black Bolt killed him. I can't help wondering if Emma's exposure to Terrigen has damaged this psychic's mind, leaving her sanity in question. That said, in what may be a continuity error but could also be a hint that Death of X didn't present the whole story, she shows a video of Cyclops being killed by Black Bolt. Naturally, you can't video a telepathic projection, so something's off there; time will tell whether this was a deliberate detail, or just a mistake on Soule's part.
Kenneth Rocafort does some tremendous work in Inhumans Versus X-Men #0. Soule's script gives him every chance to strut his stuff; he has to draw locations as diverse as Attilan and the Savage Land, and to render every character from Beast to Magik. Given the demands the script puts upon him, I'm seriously impressed by Rocafort's performance; he pays tremendous attention to detail, and every character is distinctively rendered.
A Surprising Delight
I'm going to be honest that I've never been particularly enthusiastic about this current status quo, so I confess I was anticipating Inhumans Versus X-Men largely because I was looking forward to the Terrigen arc being finished. To my surprise, though, Inhumans Versus X-Men #0 has left me quite looking forward to the event.
- The X-Men And The Inhumans Are Finally Going Head-To-Head!
- 'Uncanny X-Men Annual' Pokes Fun At 'Batman v Superman' And Addresses The X-Men's Biggest Problem
- 10 Facts You Might Not Know About 'X-Men: Apocalypse's Cyclops!
This really is a strong issue, a surprising delight - frankly, I'm considering this #ComicOfTheWeek, and that's something I never thought I'd say. This is a must-read for every X-Men fan, and - should the event as a whole be as well-scripted as this #0 issue - Inhumans Versus X-Men may be a very enjoyable book.
What did you think of 'Inhumans Versus X-Men' #0?
Poll Image: Marvel Comics